Saturday, 1 December 2018

Count Eric Stenbock


MOON-THROWN SHADOWS OF YEW (1)
COUNT ERIC STENBOCK: UNSPOKEN LOVE AND DEVOTION
By
Barry Van-Asten


As a founder member and secretary of a small group of dedicated literary enthusiasts who meet monthly on the night of the full moon to dine and discuss obscure points of literary interest in the lives of lesser known poets, I have thought it of some benefit to pedants and admirers alike to record some of the official findings in accordance with the club’s meetings. First, a brief history of the exclusive club is in order for it goes by the name of ‘The Damaged Poets’ Club’ and its sign is the broken quill; I brought it into being some seven years ago and to date there are just five members including myself, all suffering under the yoke of Erato, the muse of poetry and all a little ‘damaged’. Members of the club adopt an assumed name, and title of their own choosing and a list of members to date are: Lord Cecil d’Florrette, an enthusiast of uranian poetry; Sir John Chevalier also known as ‘Johnny Deadbones’ after his obsession for dead things; Baron Alexander Warlock, an amateur astronomer and enthusiast of the poets Lionel Johnson and Roden Noel; Lord Chanson d’Wilde, an admirer of all things ‘decadent’ and myself, Sir Pent O’Gramme, a noted if somewhat amateur diabolist. To give a few examples from the records of the proceedings of the club, if we look at December (the fifteenth to be precise) we find there was a dinner: ‘Omnia exeunt in mysterium’, which consisted of buttered shrimps, Canard a’ la Rouennaise, followed by Quince and cream in honour of the death of Arthur Machen (not strictly an obscure poet but a literary figure we all admire); drinks included: Quinta do Noval 1931 vintage port, Ducastaing 1889 Armagnac, a Martell 1906 and a special ‘Dog and Duck’ punch (No. 2) concocted by Machen (2). Lord Cecil read his paper on “Machen’s occult threads through ‘The Great God Pan’ and ‘The Hill of Dreams’” and a discussion ensued upon the Lovecraft/Machen connection with supernatural entities and other-worldly beings; of course the name of Aleister Crowley was raised during the discussion, a subject I know something about being a student of his works and having spoken upon myself only the previous month for our ‘Crowley Supper’ to celebrate his entry into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn which consisted of a fiery curry made by myself which I called ‘Kanchenjunga’s Revenge’, charged from the depths of hell; (I had prepared a magick circle and after a brief invocation I read Crowley’s ‘Hymn to Pan’ and the atmosphere was charged with a palpable magical energy). Domaine de Chevalier, 1920 and a Piesporter Goldtropfchen 1925 was drunk followed by cigars all in honour of the old Beast!
In the following March a special dinner was prepared to celebrate the entry into the world of Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock, a poet favoured by Lord Chanson d’Wilde who gave a talk on the eccentric and rather ‘damaged’ poet. The meeting took place at the home of Lord Cecil who prepared a fine feast he called ‘The Taste of Death, Sin and Ecstasy’ and consisted of (and Lord knows how he acquired the ingredients: or perhaps he was pulling our legs!) cats’ eyes soup for starters followed by cheese soufflés (a decided let down) and then a main course of penguin tongue and roast swan in Guillemot sauce and Guinea pigs’ hearts with artichoke and asparagus which was splendidly decadent and a chocolate mousse in the shape of a serpent. We drank Absinthe, a Domaine Leroy Richebourg Grand Cru, 1949 and a Cheval Blanc 1947 St-Emilion. Before the discussion ensued I had draped a coffee table with a black cloth and set six candles in place around a photograph of the poet and knelt at the altar as I lit the candles in his honour. We each in turn paid our respects at this shrine. The meeting commenced with a recitation by Lord Chanson from the works of Eric Stenbock, a poem entitled The Vampire, whose ‘serpent coils’ seemed appropriate for the sweet dish and had us all drooling over our chocolate mousse!

‘I would seek thee in secret places
In the darkest hour of night,
Embrace thee with serpent embraces,
Delight thee with strange delight.

In a serpent’s coils entwine
The supple and exquisite form,
And drink from thy veins like wine
Thy blood delicious and warm.

With slow soft sensual sips
Draw the life from the tender spray,
And brush from thy soft lithe lips
The bloom of thy boyhood away.

I would breathe with the breath of thy mouth
And pang thee with perfect pain;
And the vital flame of thy youth
Should live in my limbs again.

Till thy vital elastic form
Should gradually fade and fail,
And thy blood in my veins flow warm,
And glow in my face, that was pale.’

One interesting point raised by Lord Chanson in respect of Stenbock concerned the young boy to whom Stenbock dedicated his volume of verse ‘Rue, Myrtle and Cypress’ in 1883 (the book was also dedicated to the artist Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) and Stenbock’s cousin, the naval officer in the Russian Imperial Navy, Lieutenant Arvid Stenbock), (3) the boy’s name was Charles Bertram Fowler and Lord Chanson had exposed certain information about the boy and his family to which he said he would relate upon the next meeting. Baron Alexander also read his review of the poems of Digby Mackworth Dolben before its submission and several concerns were raised on minor faults in punctuation; and a short discussion ensued on Christopher Sclater Millard who wrote under the pseudonym Stuart Mason, on his appreciation of the work of Oscar Wilde and some ‘inconsistencies’ in his bibliography of the playwright were noted.
The next meeting convened at the ‘Worshipful Whore Inn’ located in a small village (not disclosed) in April which also coincided with Stenbock’s death and a lavish dinner of sorrel, saffron and giblet soup to start with and a side of Cornish oysters, soused herrings and turtle fins with caviar followed by a mains selection of either white truffles and Balut with roast Surrey fowl, partridge and fois-gras or black truffles with Ortolon and Duckling a’ la Bordelaise with a dessert of medlars in ice cream. The drinks available were: Haut-Brion 1874, 1808 Malmsey and a 1790 Reserve which were all first class. Dinner was pronounced a great success and Lord Chanson began his talk upon the subject of Charles B. Fowler by giving some details as to his parents which was that his father was the Reverend Alfred Fowler (4) who was born in 1835, the son of John Fowler of Eastleach near Lechlade in Gloucestershire. Alfred was educated at Queen’s College, Oxford, matriculating on 2nd June 1853 aged 18, attaining his BA in 1857 and from 1858 he held various curacies, including Vicar of Compton, as ascertained from his son’s, namely Harcourt Boyes Snowden Fowler’s entry in the Cambridge Alumni, until his death on 8th August 1880 in Farringdon aged 45 [July-Sept 1880. Vol 2c, page 165, line number 299]. Alfred married Catherine Diana Snowden on 25th June (or 1st of July, there is some discrepancy) 1857 at St George’s Church, Ramsgate in Kent. Catherine was born in 1833 and Christened on 10th August that year at St George’s Church, Ramsgate and she was the daughter of the solicitor Thomas Hodges Grove Snowden. She died in 1906 in Chester aged 72. There were five children issuing from the marriage, namely: Harcourt Boyes Snowden Fowler born in Highworth, Wiltshire in 1858 [Oct-Dec 1858. Vol 5a, page 2, line number 32], (Christened on 12th November 1858) and educated at Malvern College and Jesus College, Cambridge matriculating in January 1881 aged 22, attaining his BA in 1884. He was ordained deacon (Worcestershire) in 1885 and also married Fanny Warren in that year in Lymington, Hampshire; he became a priest in 1886, Church in Witley, Worcestershire, 1885-90; Church of Inkberrow 1890-97. Vicar of Elmley Castle with Netherton 1898-1932. He died on 27th January 1942 at Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire.
The second born child was Jessie Louisa Fowler, born 1860 [April-June 1860. Vol 5a, page 5, line number 159], Christened on 25th May 1860 in Highworth, Wiltshire. She married the Reverend Walter Octavius Marsh Hughes (5) on 7th August 1884, at Shrivenham, Berkshire and they had five children (6). Walter (born in 1861 at Tiverton, Devonshire) died in 1931 in Chester and Jessie died in 1928 in Chester, Cheshire aged 67.
The next child was Herbert Alfred Fowler born in Highworth, Wiltshire 12th September 1861 [Oct-Dec 1861. Vol 5a, page 2, line number 31], and Christened on 4th October 1861. Herbert went up to Magdalene College, Oxford, matriculating on 13th October 1879 aged 18, and he became a clerk in 1879.
Another boy was born to the Fowlers named Ernest Kingsford Fowler in Highworth, Wiltshire in 1863 [April-June 1863. Vol 5a, page 5, line number 57] and Christened on 29th May 1863 in Highworth. Ernest immigrated to Canada and he married Julia Maude Howard Linton on Saturday 30th April 1892 in Sutton West, York, Ontario, Canada. Ernest is 28 years old and Julia is 25 and they had two children (7). Julia was born 2nd May 1866 in Georgina, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of James Buckley Linton and Lucretia Linton. Ernest Kingsford Fowler died on 19th January 1902 aged 38 at the New York Hospital, in the Bronx, New York City, New York, United States. His occupation was ‘civil engineer’ and he was buried on 22nd January 1902 at Sutton, Ontario, Canada. His wife, Julia Maude Howard Fowler crossed the border from Canada to the USA on 23rd November 1944, arriving at Buffalo, New York.
And the boy who is the subject of our discussion, Charles Bertram Fowler was born in Northleach, Gloucestershire in 1864 and died in 1881 in Faringdon, Berkshire aged 16. (8)
Three years before Charles was born, we can see from the 1861 census that the Fowlers were living at 83, Faringdon Road in Highworth, Wiltshire. (9) His father, Alfred is twenty-six, and a ‘curate of Highworth, Wiltshire’; Catherine is twenty-seven, young Harcourt is two and Jessie is just eleven months old. The family have two servants.
Ten years later in the 1871 census the family are living at Malvern Wells in the village of Hanley Castle, Upton upon Severn, Worcestershire. (10) Alfred is thirty-six and a ‘clerk in Holy Orders without cure of souls’; Catherine is thirty-seven and with them is Catherine’s sister, Jessie S Snowden, aged twenty from Ramsgate. Their children and ages are: Harcourt 12, Jessie 10, Herbert 9, Ernest 7 and Bertram C, 6. Also at the address are Alfred’s Nephew; Charles M Bengers aged 9 and his Niece, Emily M Cochrane aged 9. There is a twenty-three year old Governess named Georgeada Countze from St Martins, London and three pupils: Robert S M Synge aged 14 from Eccles, Manchester; C J R Stirling aged 13 from Bath and Henry P Williams aged 9 from Hereford. There are also three servants. Following the discussion Lord Cecil read us a synopsis of his piece about Edward Cracroft Lefroy and his ‘Echoes from Theocritus’ which was most interesting if a little long-winded.
For the May meeting the club met at rooms in ‘The Shivering Cow’ (location unspecified) and Dinner, which I thought quite unimaginative, consisted of: Frogs’ legs and escargot for starters and a choice of mains: Pigeon Pie or Trout. The dessert was lemon sponge cake with cream. Drinks were quite exceptional: 1914 Groizet Bonaparte Cognac, Lafite 1865, Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1951 and an 1830 Saint Christeau Armagnac (instead of the Madeira 1795 Companhia Vinicola Terrantez we were promised!)
Baron Alexander stated that Adlard (11) said that he could find very little information concerning Charles Bertram Fowler, the object one supposes of Stenbock’s affections and we can only speculate as to the nature of the relationship which undoubtedly unfolded when Stenbock was an undergraduate at Oxford. ‘Do we actually know how they met?’
‘It is my belief’ stated Lord Chanson, ‘that there are two obvious opportunities for Stenbock to have known Charles Fowler, one is that Stenbock was an acquaintance of Charles’ brother Herbert Alfred Fowler (born 1861) who was up at Oxford during Stenbock’s time there – Stenbock matriculated in April 1879, aged 19 at Balliol College and Fowler in October 1879 aged 18 at Magdalene College; and the second possibility is that Stenbock knew Walter Octavius Marsh Hughes, who married Charles’ sister Jessie Louisa Fowler and who matriculated in October 1879 aged 19, at Magdalene College.’
‘We must also remember’ continued Baron Alexander, ‘that the boy was only sixteen at the time of his death in 1881.’ Lord Chanson agreed and continued, saying that if Adlard is to be believed, we can estimate the time of the boy’s death as being the 12th of June 1881, or thereabouts, in fact, just ten months after the boy’s father, Alfred’s death in August 1880. (12) Stenbock was five years senior to Charles. In fact, I have managed to track young Charles in the census of 1881 which was taken on the night of the 3rd of April, just ten weeks before his death. He is living at the eighteenth century Medlar Cottage on Faringdon Road, in Compton Beauchamp, Shrivenham in Berkshire and he is a sixteen year old scholar. The head of the household is his mother Catherine Diana Fowler, a 47 year old widow of clergyman, no occupation and living with them is Charles’ sister Jessie Louisa Fowler who is 20 years old and of no occupation. With the Fowlers is an eleven year old boarder named John Mervyn Swinhoe, born in Swindon, Wiltshire in 1869, and a General Servant, twenty-six year old Ellen Fessey from Boddington, Northampton. (13) The death of young Charles is recorded as consumption occurring in Faringdon, Berkshire. I think I am right in saying that had he lived he would probably have followed in his brothers’ footsteps and gone on to Oxbridge and maybe even in his father’s and brother Harcourt’s into the Church!’
‘Do you believe’ asked Sir John, ‘that much of the poetry in Stenbock’s first volume alludes to the relationship between Stenbock and the boy?’ (14) ‘I think it is safe to assume’ said Lord Chanson, ‘that he manifests throughout Stenbock’s second collection, Rue, Myrtle and Cypress in some particular fashion, rather than in his first collection which may well be romantically inclined towards the young, actually sixteen year old composer Norman O’Neil (1875-1934) whom Stenbock met on the top deck of a horse-drawn bus in Piccadilly on 9th May 1881, but it is only conjecture; in the first volume we find that the poet becomes separated from his beloved, who perhaps more succinctly is taken from the poet by his friends who disapprove, and page thirty-four of the volume states quite clearly that the beloved is in fact a boy! Rue, Myrtle and Cypress declares quite clearly in sensuous lines that Stenbock is infatuated with youth and very probably, Charles Bertram Fowler! Take for instance, Song XIII: To a Boy, the imagery is certainly clear:’

‘Tis even a delight, dear,
To gaze upon thy face,
To love the life within thee,
Fair fashioned, full of grace.
But in the dark of thy body
The soul hath no resting-place.

And so there is that about thee
Which left me not content,
As the sighing strings of the wind-harp,
Where the wind’s weird wailings went,
Or the poor pressed petals that still keep
A thought of the rose’s scent.’

‘Quite charming! And perhaps it does allude to his inclinations, but is there any indication as to the relationship that existed?’ asked Baron Alexander.
‘It seems to me’, said Lord Chanson, ‘that there really is only three options as to the nature of the relationship and that is that one: Stenbock saw the boy and was probably in awe of his beauty and vibrant vigour of youth and loved him from afar and drew inspiration from him for his poetry, or that two: Stenbock actually did become acquainted with the boy and was on friendly relations with him and no doubt showered gifts upon him and made a flattered Charles the recipient of his first book of poems ‘Love, Sleep and Dreams’, and that three: they knew each other on intimate terms and were in fact lovers; my own conclusion tends towards that they were on friendly terms and Stenbock filled in the blanks in his own mind, a sort of homosexual fantasist, not too unlike Baron Corvo, but of course, we can never really be sure.’
‘Hmm, so you are suggesting’ I said, ‘that d’Arch Smith was possibly correct when he says and I quote: “lust for young boys and his morbid desire for death as a release from psychological distress – but no boy slaughtered Stenbock in the madness of his kisses and the Count drained no boy of his life-blood. Instead, opium and alcohol, aiding his delusions but undermining his health, increasing his obsessions but, supporting for a time his feverish brain, hastened his end,”?’ (15)
‘I think that is a fair assumption!’ said Lord Chanson.
‘This is all most interesting’ declared Sir John, ‘but I would like to know to what extent Stenbock was immersed in the occult?’
‘I can say with reasonable confidence,’ I said, ‘that Stenbock’s occult interests stemmed from his mystical nature which was a sort of pagan Catholicism and I believe Francis King hits the nail on the head when he says Stenbock “made an attempt to understand his own homosexuality in terms of traditional occultism, eventually coming to view his condition as an aspect of vampirism and lycanthropy, torn between Catholicism and diabolism.”’ (16)
‘Do we know Stenbock’s reaction to the boy’s death?’ asked Lord Cecil.
‘I am afraid we don’t but we do know’ Lord Chanson explained, ‘that Stenbock is in London on 9th May for he meets the composer Norman O’Neil and in Oxford on 23rd May and four weeks later on the 20th June, just a week after the young boy’s death, Stenbock, who is twenty-one years old, was in London. He has left Oxford and dropped out of education – is his leaving Oxford related to the death of Charles who would have been progressively sick before his death on 12th June? Were there rumours of a possible scandle? Probably not but we do not know for sure. We do of course know that Eric had converted to Roman Catholicism and his mother and stepfather were decidedly unhappy about this turn of events, Francis Mowatt (Stenbock’s stepfather) saying in a letter to Eric’s Uncle Nikolai Stenbock, dated 27th March 1877 that ‘he may grow wiser as he gets older, and again join some less ridiculous religion’ and perhaps this had some say in his leaving, and not some abominable behaviour. But by 22nd July Stenbock is in Wiesbaden, Germany; before the end of the month he is in St Petersburg and by the 4th August he is in Estonia, at the sea-side villa in Zitter. It is also known that he wrote some thirty poems between May and November of 1881 most of which were published in his second volume – Rue, Myrtle and Cypress, two years later in 1883. He would have found the death of a beautiful and perfectly innocent youth quite arousing I should think!’
‘Don’t we all gentlemen!’ I said with hands clasped in reverence.
‘Speak for yourself, Sir Pent!’ said Sir John, ‘but I prefer my lovers in the land of the living thank you very much!’
‘Adlard also states that the boy died at the Rectory in Compton Beauchamp, is this so?’ asked Lord Cecil, adding ‘I wonder if Stenbock attended the funeral or paid his respects at the graveside in private?’
‘From the records’ answered Lord Chanson, ‘I find that Charles died in the village of Compton Beauchamp and is in fact buried there. The village is three miles southeast of Shrivenham in the Faringdon district of Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) and the living for St. Swithin’s Church is the old Rectory. I have yet to confirm that the boy died at the Rectory but as Adlard seems to believe so there is no doubt to disbelieve him! (17) Until by some extraordinary good fortune letters surface we are destined to remain in the dark I am afraid!’ Baron Alexander then read from his own six part poem composed upon the youth in question – Charles Bertram Fowler which we hereby omit from the records due to the content which was very near the knuckle and almost ‘blasphemous!’ and the results of a séance to contact the boy’s spirit conducted between myself (Sir Pent O’Gramme) and an ‘unknown woman of mediumistic ability’ has also been omitted.
A final meeting in relation to the Stenbock/Fowler debate occurred in June and was held in a room at ‘The Gardners Arms’ and in attendance were – myself, Lord Cecil, Sir John and Lord Chanson (Baron Alexander refused to attend due to a point of punctuation, viz the missing apostrophe in the name of the venue – The Gardners Arms, something we all felt deeply about yet overlooked for the sake of the meting, dear Baron!). Following a sumptuous dinner of Yorkshire ham and glazed tongue with a choice of sweet dishes, and for drinks – a 1906 Croizet Bonaparte Champagne and an 1893 Legendaire Armagnac,  Lord Cecil began the talk by asking Lord Chanson of the whereabouts of Stenbock during the 1881 census taken on the night of the 3rd of April.
‘From the records’ said Lord Chanson, ‘we can see that he was at the family home at Withdeane Hall, near Brighton in Sussex with his stepfather Francis Mowatt, aged 43 (born 1838 New South Wales) whose occupation is ‘Principal Clerk Treasury’(Count Eric Stenbock did not get along with his stepfather); his mother Lucy Sophia Mowatt, aged 41 of Old Trafford, Cheshire (18) and Francis’s children: Mary Hilda Mowatt aged 15 (b. 1866) London, Middlesex; Francis Herbert Mowatt 13 (b. 1868) London, Middlesex; Lucy Winifred Mowatt 12 (b. 1869) Cheltenham, Gloucestershire; Charles R J Mowatt 8 (b. 1873) London, Middlesex; Godfrey F Mowatt 6 (b. 1875) London, Middlesex and Margaret Mowatt 5 (b. 1876), Patcham, Sussex. There is one boarder named Emilia C J Martin aged 25 from Kessaengen, Germany and eight female servants between the ages of 16 and 42, seven of which are English and one, namely Eliza Darkhead, 24 is Prussian.’
After a brief pause, Lord Chanson continued, saying ‘it has been suggested that Stenbock showed little grief after the boy’s death and if it were so why would he dedicate the second collection of poems to him, a mere sixteen year old boy (alongside Simeon Solomon and Arvid Stenbock)? For proof we need only look at the poems within that slim volume for signs of grief! I would like to read a few examples as evidence gentlemen, and you may decide for yourselves the nature of the affection penned for all eternity!’ and Lord Chanson read from his notebook:

‘Song IX

Ah play to me
That melody
For I am sick of love.
I think all day
Of one far away
Whom that tune reminds me of.

Day is as night,
Without the light
That flows from his love-lit eyes.
Night waste as day
I pine away,
My spirit within me dies.

I cannot sleep,
I only weep,
Bereft of his soft embrace;
And through the day
I think alway
On that sweet familiar face.’

‘And take into account these lines from the poem Golden Dreams –‘

‘I dreamed of you, my darling, that I again had found you
(I had dreamed it twice already, so I knew it was not true) –
That I again had found you, and wound my arms around you,
And your eyes looked up so sweetly, just as they used to do.

And you told me that you loved me, and you said that you had missed me,
And that we, though rent in sunder, should be brought together again,
And so warmly you embraced me, and so tenderly you kissed me,
That my heart was glad within me as the sunshine after rain.

And you told me, ah so sweetly, you would stay with me for ever,
And I had so much to tell you that I scarce knew what to say…

And later on in the poem we find the despairing lines:

Is so very little pleasure worth such bitter disappointment,
And is a joy so fleeting worth so long an after pain?’

‘And there is an increase in the passionate language as the poet yearns towards his love in Song XI:’

‘Entwine thy limbs around me, love, and let
Thy sweet soft face lean closer kissing me,
Ah sweet! thy beauty sings and burns me, yet
Alas, my love, my heart is far from thee!

Cast forth upon the waves and rent in twain,
A riven relic, severed of the sea,
I fear ‘t will hardly learn to love again, -
Alas, my love, my heart is far from thee!

Sweet, be not angered with me, kiss me yet,
And throw thine arms about me lovingly –
Thou art so beautiful, shall I forget?
Alas, my love, my heart is far from thee.

Sonnet IX

Visit me sometimes in the dreams of night,
Until the daybreak and the shadows flee
Away, and let my soul commune with thee;
Grant me at least this brief and cold delight –
Canst thou not cross the veil – ah, that I might
Lie but one night in dreams embracing thee,
And feel thee near me, hear thy voice, and see
Thy face once more, and gladden in the sight.

My love is dead, and comes not back again,
Yet once in the still watches of one night
I felt the silence cleft with a low moan
From a loved voice, that sighed as if in pain,
A spirit’s lips were pressed upon mine own, -
- Then I arose to curse the wan daylight.

Sonnet XI

It might have been, but ah, it was too late –
Doomed to be disappointed – and how long
Shall I still sit and sing that soul-sick song
Of which my soul is sadly satiate?
What curious counterchange of fitful fate
Led thee to me, for whom I had longed so long,
Of many days and hours, choosing the wrong,
Even that heart-sick hour called ‘too late’?

And thine eyes looked on me so piteously,
Beautiful eyes, that thrilled and filled with tears,
Tears, even for one of which I had yearned for years,
Even for this little, love, long did I wait,
And when it came it was too late – too late.’

‘In Sonnet XII we have the line “is thy one flower trodden under foot” and it may be a tentative connection but the similarity between “flower” and “fowler” would not have escaped the poet:’

‘All of no use, ‘twas all of no avail,
I lived my life, I loved my love in vain;
Yea, of all pains this is the bitterest pain,
In sooth ‘twere hard to tell a sadder tale.
The long hours come and go, and weep and wail,
All wound thee, and the last shall leave the slain,
The joy missed once shall not come back again,
And all thy tears shall be of no avail.

Is thy youth fled, - and are thy dreams all dead?
Is thy one flower trodden under foot
In bye-ways, where the way-worn wonderers tread,
Or hath it bloomed and perished without fruit?
Or is the fruit thereof all plucked and shed?
Or hath thine own hand killed it at the root?’

‘He is certainly a very underrated poet!’ I said.
‘It must have been a terrible strain’ suggested Lord Cecil, ‘for the boy’s mother, Catherine; to lose her husband and then several months later lose her youngest child!’
‘Indeed, I am sure it was.’ Lord Chanson answered, gravely, adding that ‘I have found her in the 1891 census living at Malva Cottage, Bath Road in Speen, Berkshire, she is fifty-seven years old “living on own means” with her twenty-three year old general servant, Alice H Reynolds from Ramsgate, Gloucestershire. (19) And in the 1901 census Catherine, aged sixty-seven, is living with her daughter Jessie and her husband the Rev. Walter Octavius Marsh Hughes at the Rectory in the High Street, in Tarporley, Cheshire. (20) Catherine dies there five years later aged seventy-two.’
‘Is it not the case, Lord Chanson’ enquired Sir John, ‘that Stenbock woke beside the cold corpse of some young man of the cloth?’
‘That is correct Sir John but it does not really concern us. The fact is that a friend of Stenbock’s, namely the Reverend William Pomeroy Ogle had come to see Stenbock at his home in London and there took two or three opium pills, I forget how many; it’s widely known that Stenbock was deep in the grip of the drug and took what to others would be a lethal dose, anyway, the two men went to dinner and then went on to Brentwood where the good Reverend lived and they shared a bed for the night. Stenbock woke in the morning to find his friend dead beside him from heart failure!’ (21)
‘I think we have explored’ I said, ‘all that we can for the present concerning Charles Bertram Fowler and we must draw to a close. It was unfortunate that Baron Alexander could not be with us tonight and we shall certainly inform him that he missed a Chateau Lafite 1787 and a Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945 and of course a splendid feast, one that even Stenbock would have delighted in, for we tasted, or at least we shall tell the Baron, that we tasted that rarest of delicacies – human flesh!’ and a genteel rumble of laughter ended the meeting.




NOTES:

  1. The Passion of Sleep: A Ballade. ‘The Shadow of Death: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Sonnets’. Count Eric Stenbock. 1893.
  2. ‘Dog and Duck Punch is an essentially fluid conception’. Thanks are in order to Mr. Mark Valentine, a celebrated Machen scholar and author. The punch, whose exact quantities of ingredients are vague, is brewed thus: Take Gin and Sauternes (sweet) and mix accordingly to the taste and capacity of yourself and your friends. Add a small Burgundy or Bordeaux. Quantities have never been measured.
  3. Arvid Olof Theophile Stenbock, born 1868, Kolk, Estonia; died 1943 aged 75, Finland. Arvid was the son of Count Nikolai Stenbock (1840-1902) and Magda Amalie Aline von Anders (1843-1934) and Arvid married Annie Ellen Rosine Jacobson (1877-1953) in 1906. It is said that Eric’s parents were not happy with the friendship between Eric and his cousin Arvid as there was an unnatural closeness between them and Eric was eight years senior to the boy. The dedication reads thus: ‘In this Book I dedicate the Myrtle thereof to Simeon Solomon, the Rue thereof to Arvid Stenbock and the Cypress thereof to the memory of Charles Bertram Fowler.’ At the time of publication (1883) Arvid would have been fifteen years old. In the language of flowers the Cypress is symbolic of ‘death, despair and mourning’ while the Myrtle represents ‘love, fidelity and chastity’ and the Rue ‘regret, disdain and adultery’.
  4. In the 1841 census for the Fowler family we find them living at Eastleach, Turville in Gloucestershire and the head of the household, John Fowler, aged 35-39 is from Gloucestershire; Mary Fowler, 35-39, Benjamin Fowler aged 11, Frederick Fowler aged 8, Alfred Fowler aged 6 and Emily Fowler aged 3, all born in Gloucestershire. 1841 Census for England and Wales: Reg number H0107, page 17, piece/folio 352/11.
  5. Reverend Walter Octavius Marsh Hughes matriculated on 14th October 1879, aged 19, clerk, at Magdalene College, Oxford, 1880-83. B.A. 1883.
  6. Walter Bertram Hughes born 15th May 1885 (Christened 21st June 1885) at Houghton-le-Spring, Durham; Jessie Muriel Hughes, Christened 1st January 1887, Houghton-le-Spring, Durham; John Bernard Hughes (Lieutenant), born 2nd May 1888 and Christened 20th May 188 at Houghton-le-Spring, Durham; Geoffrey Arden Hughes, Christened 19th October 1890 at Torperley, Cheshire; Alfred Harcourt Hughes, Christened 2nd December 1894 at Torperley, Cheshire.
  7. Catherine Bessie Fowler born 16th May 1893 in Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada and Hubert Howard Snowden Fowler, born 18th December 1894 in Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada. Catherine (aged 29 and a trained nurse) married Johnathan Pyott Hadfield M.D. (age 34, born 1888, the son of John H Hadfield and Jennie A Pyott) on 3rd June 1922 at Bowmanville, Durham, Ontario, Canada. A description of the ‘pretty wedding’ which ‘took place at St. John’s Church on Saturday afternoon’ is given in ‘The Canadian Statesman’. vol lxviii. Bowmanville. Ontario. June 8 1922: The bride’s mother attended and her brother, Herbert S Fowler acted as best man. Herbert Howard Snowden Fowler, Lieutenant, entered the Royal Naval Air Service on 7th December 1916, 12 Naval Squadron; 8 Naval Squadron (later 208 Squadron) on 18th August 1917. Discharged when it was discovered he was almost completely deaf. He immigrated aged 24 on 12th July 1918 to Ellis Island, New York City, USA, departing from the port of Liverpool on the Grampian.
  8. Register Index of Births for England and Wales: 1864 July-Sept. Northleach, Gloucestershire. Volume 6a, page 332, line number 149 Register Index of Deaths for England and Wales: 1881 April-June. Faringdon, Berkshire, aged 16. Volume 2c, page 163, line number 282.
  9. 1861 Census for England and Wales: Reg number RG09, page 15, piece/folio 1269/11.
  10. 1871 Census for England and Wales: entry number 19, affiliate image identifier: GBC/1871/3053/0108 and 0109.
  11. ‘Stenbock, Yeats and the Nineties’. John Adlard. 1969. (see page 16)
  12. ‘He [Stenbock] was in Oxford on the 23rd May, [1881] having his photograph taken. Twenty days later, in the village of Compton Beauchamp (some twenty-two miles from Oxford) a consumptive boy of sixteen died at the Rectory. He was Charles Bertram Fowler, son of the Reverend Alfred Fowler, who had died the year before.’ Adlard. p. 16
  13. 1881 Census. Page 28, Reg Number RG11, piece/folio1277/17.
  14. ‘Love, Sleep and Dreams’. Eric Stenbock. 1881.
  15. Love in Earnest: Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English ‘Uranian’ Poets from 1889 to 1930. Timothy d’Arch Smith. 1970.
  16. The Magical World of Aleister Crowley. Francis King. 1977.
  17. I have since found that the ‘Kelly’s Directory of Berkshire, Bucks and Oxon’. 1883, states that the village of Compton Beauchamp’s Church, St Swithin’s (Early English) has a living which is the rector, with residence (Rectory) and 23 acres of Glebe. In 1883 the Rector since 1849 was the Reverend George Carter M.A. of St John’s College, Oxford, matriculating on 9th June 1832 aged 19, B.A. 1836, M.A. 1840, born in 1813, Coventry, Warwickshire (died 1890). He married first wife Elizabeth (born 1816) [2 children: George Frederick St John b. 1842, Northamtonshire; Elizabeth Joanna Louisa b. 1845, Kent] and 2nd wife Catherine Courtenay (born 1827, Tunbridge Wells) daughter of the Right Hon. Thomas Peregrine Courtenay and Anne Wynell-Mayow on 3rd June 1851. They had 5 children: Evelyn Howard b. 1852; Charles William b. 1855; Ernest Courtenay b. 1858; Catherine b. 1867 and Wynell Henry b. 1869. – Ernest Courtenay was born at the Rectory on 17th February 1858 and educated at Charterhouse, London and Leamington College. Went up to St John’s College, Oxford 1880, B.A. 1884. Holy Orders 1888, Priest 1889, Curate of Chievely 1889-1896. Vicar of St Jude, Whitechapel 1899. He married Lillian Hughes (b. 1867) the daughter of Thomas Hughes, author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, in 1890. Ernest and Lillian boarded the Titanic at Southampton and both chose to stay on board – their bodies were not identified. Also in ‘Kelly’s Directory’ with Rev. George Carter it mentions the Reverend William Richard Jones M.A of Jesus College, Oxford who is curate in charge and resides at the Rectory (1883). In the 1881 census (taken on the night of 3rd April) the family are at the Rectory in Compton Beauchamp: Rev. William R Jones is 43 (born 1838) and a ‘clerk in Holy Orders curate in charge’. His wife Elizabeth is 24 from Haresfield, Gloucestershire; they have three visitors: Sarah J Hopkinson aged 20 from Haresfield, Gloucestershire, Charles N Lingen, 32 from Nantmel, Radnorshire, Wales; Emily Lingen, 32 from Rochdale, Lancashire. There are two servants at the Rectory: Sarah Davies, 38 from Shrewsbury, Shropshire and Mary Titcomb, 13 from Kingstone, Berkshire. 1881 Census for England and Wales, Reg number: RG11, page 14, piece/folio 1277/66.
  18. 1881 Census for England and Wales: Reg number RG11, page 11, piece/folio 1100/106. Lucy Sophia Frerichs, aged 19, married Erich Friedrich Diederich Magnus Stenbock on 1st March 1859. After Erich’s death in 1861, Lucy married Francis Mowatt on 9th June 1864 at St Luke’s Church, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and in 1874 the family moved from Lucy’s ancestral home at Thirlestaine Hall (where Eric Stenbock was born on 12th March 1860) to Withdeane Hall in Sussex.
  19. 1891 Census for England and Wales: Reg number: RG12, page 8, piece/folio 970/50.
  20. 1901 Census for England and Wales: Schedule type 122, page 20.
  21. Reverend William Pomeroy Ogle (1859-1884), son of the Reverend William Reynolds Ogle of Bishop’s Teignton, Devon. Rev. W P Ogle went up to Christ’s Church, Oxford; matriculating on 11th October 1878 aged 19. He visited Stenbock on 31st July 1884 and died the next day on 1st August aged 24 years. For more about Ogle see ‘The Vigil: A Poem in Memory of the Reverend William Pomeroy Ogle, Curate of the Church of St. Thomas-the-Martyr, Brentwood, Essex.’ by James M B Dwight. 1885; also ‘Of Kings and Things: Strange Tales and Decadent Poems by Count Stanislaus Eric Stenbock’. Edited by David Tibet. Strange Attractor Press. 2018. p. xxvi-xxviii.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

IAN HUME TOWNSEND MACKENZIE


POET OF DESIRE
 
Notations on the Life and Death of the Poet
IAN HUME TOWNSEND MACKENZIE
(1898-1918)
BY
BARRY VAN-ASTEN
 
To him indeed the soul was in perpetual issue with the body, and it was the soul whose claim he would serve first and always.’ [‘Forgotten Places’. 1919. Introduction by Arthur Waugh. p. 9]

 

 


 

Ian Hume Townsend Mackenzie was born on 28th September 1898 and he was christened on 27th October 1898 at St Peter’s, Southborough, Kent. Ian was a remarkable young poet whose life was sadly cut short and I felt the necessity to research and collate some information about this little known sensitive poet whose life-force burned bright and short with examples from his poetry. From his early works Ian Mackenzie appears to be a confident poet who did not resort to the flowery ‘decadence’ of the nineties poets and those who flourished beyond into the next century, he stands at the edge of modernity looking towards the new poetry that is already rising with sincere and strong poetic expression. He was a man who loved music, poetry, nature and cricket and he strode through life with a radiant presence and integrity.

 

DESIRE

 
This is my desire
Which burns the fuel of my soul.
O terrible white fire!
Leaping to blister the sky.
Beyond my sight;
Ever reaching higher;
My strength and my delight;
Oh out of my control!
This is my desire: -

To hear the song that beauty sings,
To refashion the earth with the joy of things,
To grasp in a corner of my mind
The sunlit clouds, the driving wind.
To let imagination fly
Up the beauty of the sky.
To hold it with me when I go
To sing my song on earth below.

This is the desire
Which burns the fuel of my soul.
O terrible white fire!
Leaping to blister the sky.
Beyond my sight;
Ever reaching higher;
My strength and my delight;
Oh out of my control!
This is my desire.

 
AND SO MAN LIVES

And so man lives
Between those shadowy gates
Where darkness covers up his memory,
And thought with thought forever separates
The disconnected things that he can see.
Those two strange steeps:
One whence he wakes,
And how he cannot tell;
One in which he falls
And knows not how he fell,
Where life with memory breaks.

.           .           .           .           .           .

Memory like water
Surging round our ears
Brings its echoes, softer
Than the sound of laughter –
Laughter of some strange forgotten years.

.           .           .           .           .           .

Someone gazing in a stream sees reflections hurry by;
Someone underneath a tree searching all its greenery;
Someone looking at a face holds a flying memory.

.           .           .           .           .           .

Broken images that pass
Through a twisted looking-glass;
Things we do and things we say
Ever fluttering away.

.           .           .           .           .           .

Disconnected things we see
In the brightness of the day:

Just a flower growing there
In the happiness of air.

Tiny little birds, that sing
In the melody of spring.

.           .           .           .           .           .

What we are and what we see
Are only shreds of memory.
Broken shreds and fragments pass
Through a twisted looking-glass.

[Two poems by Ian Mackenzie found in ‘More Songs by the Fighting Men’ Soldier Poets: Second Series. London. Erskine Macdonald. 1917. p. 95-98]

 

Ian’s father was Boyce John Mackenzie (son of John Mackenzie and Janet Scobie) who was born in 1843 in Durness, Scotland. Boyce was the first born son to Captain Boyce Mackenzie (born 1792 in Edderachillis, Sutherland; dying 27th July 1877, Creich) of Creich House, Creich, and Jane Scobie (born 15th June 1804 in Tongue, Sutherland; dying 15th February 1885, Creich) who were married on 14th October 1840 in Durness, Scotland. The next child born to the Mackenzie’s was Mackay Donald Mackenzie, born 7th August 1846, Kincardine, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland, who died on 6th September 1934, Bexhill on Sea, (1) and a third child named John Mackenzie, born 14th June 1848, Kincardine, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland.

In the 1871 census Boyce is living in lodgings in Lewisham, London, aged 27 and unmarried and he is a ‘Merchant’s Clerk’.
Boyce’s first marriage occurred in the winter of 1877 in Dorking, Surrey, to Henrietta Wolcot Moore, born in 1840, Cambridge. In the 1881 census Boyce and Henrietta are visitors at the home of Henry Robinson, (aged 79, born in London) in Effingham, Surrey, (Dorking); Boyce is 38 with ‘no profession’ and Henrietta is 40. Henrietta Wolcot Mackenzie died in the summer of 1887 aged 47 in Tunbridge Wells.
In the next census of 1891 Boyce John Mackenzie is living in Culverden Park Road, Tonbridge; he is 47 years old, a ‘widower, living on own means’ with two servants: Ann Shoebridge, a Cook, Domestic Servant, aged 49, married and born in East Grinstead, Sussex in 1842; and Kate Shoebridge, a single, 21 year old Housemaid, born in Kent in 1870.

Boyce re-married on 15th April 1891 to his second and younger wife Susanna Isabella Townsend Gahan, (daughter of Frederick Beresford Gahan and Katherine Jane Townsend) (1) born in County Donegal, Ireland on 28th September 1866. We find them on the 1901 census taken on 31st March, living in Park Road, in the parish of St Thomas, Tunbridge Wells, Southborough, Kent. Boyce is 57 years old ‘living on own means’ and Susanna Townsend Mackenzie is 35 years old. Their first-born child is Donald Mackay Scobie Mackenzie, aged 8, born in Tunbridge in 1892 (he died in 1960 aged 67 in Birmingham). Their second child is Frederick Boyce Mackenzie, aged 7, also born in Tunbridge in 1893. The third child is Kenneth S Mackenzie, aged 5, born in Ireland in 1896 and Ian Hume Townsend Mackenzie, aged 2. It seems from this that the Mackenzie’s were in Ireland sometime between Frederick’s birth in 1893 and Ian’s birth in 1898, probably in Donegal, Susanna’s place of birth. Also at the address in Park Road is a visitor named Kathleen Townsend, aged 28, born in Ireland in 1873. The Mackenzie’s have three servants: Gessie Welch, Nurse, Domestic Servant, aged 39, born in London in 1862; Esther Tolhurst, Cook, Domestic Servant, aged 31, born in Lambhurst, Kent in 1870 and Sarah Baldwin, aged 20, a Parlour Maid, Domestic Servant born in London in 1881.
A decade later in the 1911 census Boyce, aged 67 living on ‘private means’ and Susanna, aged 45 are living with their eight year old daughter Eileen Katherine A Mackenzie, born in Southborough, Kent on 23rd January 1903 (possibly dying in February 1988 in Chichester, Sussex) and they still have two of their domestic servants: Gessie and Esther. Ian is away from home as a 12 year old boarder at School in Tunbridge Wells. He was educated at St Lawrence College, Ramsgate in Kent and he was very keen on cricket playing for the school XI, in 1913. Ian attended the Royal Military College in Sandhurst during the winter of 1916-17 and became friends with the writer Alec Waugh (1898-1981) brother of the more famous Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966). Ian had written a review of Alec’s ‘Resentment Poems’ which appeared in ‘New Witness’, (20th September 1918) edited by G K Chesterton. In a letter written by Ian to Alec from Malleny Camp, Currie, Midlothian, dated 26th July 1917, Ian writes to confirm the arrival of Alec’s book ‘The Loom of Youth’ which the author sent to Alec, and Ian writes appreciatively – ‘It is not for its great literary merit that I shall value this particular copy, nor for any money it may have cost you to buy or send it: but because I regard it as a seal of friendship from my dearest friend in all the world, it is, that I thank you from the very depths of my soul. Yours ever, Ian’.
In fact, Alec’s father Arthur Waugh wrote a breathtakingly beautiful and tender tribute to Ian Mackenzie in the poet’s posthumously published volume of poetry in 1919, ‘Forgotten Places’ (Chapman & Hall.) Arthur sketches a portrait of the young poet, a man who ‘had all the outward evidences of the poet’s heart, and all its inward spirituality. Born of a family of tall and handsome men, with a wealth of locks, and beautiful, sensitive features, he possessed many of the physical attributes of a young pagan divinity.’ (‘Forgotten Places’. Introduction. p. 8) Mackenzie’s poetic inspiration comes from Shelley and Swinburne, with a tender devotion to Tennyson and Bridges, he was, as Arthur claims, a man with ‘the heart of the hunter of the soul, perpetually seeking rest and finding none. Those who knew him best knew the secret of that spiritual solitude, and it is just that shy solitude which finds the fullest expression in his poetry. But it was only one side of his nature, and not perhaps the most characteristic. For he was a gay and gallant lover of everything that is lovely; and it is that passionate love of loveliness, with the corresponding hatred of things ugly and malign, which leaves his memory as a poignant and imperishable possession to all those who were fortunate enough to call him friend.’ (p. 8) He ‘loved cricket only less than he loved poetry.’ (p. 9) Poetry was often the topic of conversation in the evenings at Sandhurst, ‘when the day’s military work was done’ and he could ‘forget the red-books for an hour or two in the dreams of “Hyperion” and “Adonais”.’ (p. 9) Ian’s love of poetry was vibrant for it was the ‘background of all these dreams, and the great poetry of the past the staple of all conversation.’ (p. 10) Arthur, who often entertained the young poet at his home in Hampstead with his son Alec, found Ian to be ‘the very spirit of irresponsible joy’ and ‘there was nothing the least morbid about him, no sort of shrinking from the pleasures of life, no shadow of self-absorption, about his daily relationship with his friends.  (p. 11) Ian had a great love of the theatre and a passion for Gilbert and Sullivan – most mornings he could be heard singing such works by ‘Handel, from Sullivan, from Mendelssohn, from Gounod and from Lionel Monckton, all melting into one another in one wild “musical confusion.”’ (p. 11); a beautiful youth with ‘the tenderness of a child and the strength of a man.’ (p. 12)
We were expecting him one week-end in the autumn of 1918; but, as so often; he had left the engagement at loose ends, and we wrote for confirmation. A reply came from his father to say that Ian had been taken ill with pneumonia. It had all happened in an instant, - and at the moment when we were expecting to see him swing through our little garden-gate, he was struggling for his life far away in a strange ward. There followed days of grave anxiety, relieved by news that he was holding his own bravely.’ (p. 12-13)

‘Forgotten Places’ is quite an exceptional volume of poetry and Ian Mackenzie writes in a modern metaphysical style which looks at the imprint the material body makes; the shape one makes and leaves in life – ‘the flesh will loosen every day / from that skeleton thing / that once was me.’ (I) One of the themes through the poems is of something hidden or obscured as in a doorway or barrier through which he is unable to pass beyond the threshold, and in the poem ‘The Darkened Ways’ the poet sense the nearness of Death and stares through the keyhole of the door that divides him from the spectre, ‘kneeling on the floor, / searching for something in the dark, behind.’ Later in the same poem the barrier appears to be ‘a dim unending wall of glass / through which I could not pass. /yet I could see the days behind, / standing there without a sound.’ And there is the childish sense at the culmination of death’s acceptance – ‘One day I wandered in a wood / And found my body lying on the ground.

 

THE DARKENED WAYS

Death, I smote the shadowy door
That lies between you and my mind,
Stared through the keyhole, kneeling on the floor,
Searching for something in the dark, behind.
And sometimes, as the silence closed around,
I heard the door-bolt loosened from within;
I stood there, but there was no sound,
And I could not enter in.

There was a moment once,
There must have been –
Could I but catch it in my brain –
Passing that doorway,
I must have come between
What I cannot see and what is seen!
Silence splinters,
Everywhere shreds of memories flutter through…
You forget, remember, and find;
And twist the puzzle in your mind:
But most of the fragments are not there,
And your eyes are the more completely blind.

Walking from that unknown sleep,
Suddenly I was dismayed.
I felt its memories round me creep,
Making me afraid.
Then something held my frightened glance;
I was swept into a dance,
Whirled and swept – an endless white,
Blinding all my startled sight,
Then, breaking through the doors of death,
All the thoughts of my delight
Flamed into my countenance;
And I felt my gasping breath,
As I gazed into my eyes,
Till I knew my frightened glance,
As it grew amid the dance.

.           .           .           .

Bewildered, suddenly I turned round,
To see a dim unending wall of glass
Through which I could not pass.
Yet I could see the days behind,
Standing there without a sound.
Flesh, I am weary of your company.
I feel your ugliness every day.
Shuffling, hustling you are me
And I cannot get away.
There must be some doorway,
That we cannot find,
Between the body and the mind.

When stillness covered all the land,
I could never understand
Why I did not make a sound,
Until one day I wandered in a wood
And found my body lying on the ground.

We all have philosophies,
Cover them with cap and bell,
Deck them out in fineries,
Till they are mythologies.

Then there is a pause:
No man can tell
What lies upon the ground,
The other side of sound.

There is a God! but he is the air,
And the trees and the fields.
He lives in laughter and shining hair,
In the night, in the sunset,
In the pale green of twilight,
In lights and shadows and windy flowers,
In flying dust and in laughing showers,
He lives where the rabbit scampers and delves.
He lives in us. He is ourselves.
He lives in the wind and the flying sky,
And he is Memory when we die.

[Forgotten Places. Chapman & Hall. 1919. p. 20-24]

 

The poet utilises the imagery of the bolting and unbolting of doors to signify perhaps the impression of the mind over the body; the senses and the flesh – in the poem ‘Dust’ there is a desperate longing to equate the inevitable end of the material body with the history and story of life contained within the dust we shall become –‘a pebble glittering in the sun / whispers a tale, but you will not hear; / it is so tiny and so still, / of love that was known, / and anger and fear / one time, near some forgotten hill.’ And the ultimate conclusion remains: ‘Dust cleaves to dust, / And life desires life.

 

DUST

Yesterday upon a hill
I stood looking down below,
Watching crowds that come and go,
Each with some purpose to fulfil.
People meeting now and then,
Chattering to friends they know,
Hurrying away again to some work that they must do.
Dust is flying everywhere:
Uncertain fragments flutter about.
Knowledge shuffles here and there,
Trying to find the mystery out….

A fallen tree lies on the ground, shattered and old.
It is crumbling away, and the earth will fold
Her darkness over it very slow,
Till she draws it into her heart below.
A bolt has dropped from a rotted gate,
Eaten and seared with rust;
It will be for a long time there in the moss,
Breaking away into dust.
Winter: the trees and the fields are white,
Covered with flakes of snow.
A bird that sang in the spring last year
Falls dead on the grass below.
Anxiously watching beside the bed
A mother feels each minute creep.
Her child, who has coughed the whole night through,
Suddenly falls asleep.

A dead man lies on the burning sand:
Vultures tear his flesh:
His bones
Will soon fall apart and lie
Scattered among the stones.

A pebble glittering in the sun
Whispers a tale, but you will not hear;
It is so tiny and so still,
Of love that was known,
And anger and fear
One time, near some forgotten hill.

A baby wakes and suddenly sings…
Oh, how shall we understand!
Of strange forgotten happenings
In another land.

People are rushing about in the square,
Thinking of this, thinking of that,
A man on the pavement over there
Catches a sudden dream
Of trees overhanging a sunlit stream.

In the body of one man there must
Be many million flakes of dust,
Bird and flower, sky and tree:
Oh, if each separate grain could hold
A separate memory!

Dust creeps to us: we touch it everywhere:
We live with birds and trees and flowers, and there
Is always some familiar thing reminding us
That we are still the same;
Some colour, some sound or shape we know,
That seems to flow between,
And call to us:
A terrible arch dread,
Welding together life with life,
And the living with the dead.

It holds us in the faces of the flowers;
A petal bitten terribly with gold,
A flaming poppy seems to hold
Some deep unfathomable fear
That calls, that beckons us to come
Beware! Beware!
Lest a flower root you down by the hair!
Dust cleaves to dust,
And life desires life.
There is some strangeness here.
A flake of dust will nourish in the flesh
Then suddenly appear, and live and move.
It holds the fear,
That strange fear in the hearts of men
You cannot put away again.
And it is old… oh, who can tell how old?
How peacefully it lies
In its green valleys,
Flowery woods and hills,
Or where it sleeps
Among huge tranquil plains
That reach towards the edges of the skies.

For on its sunlit march it comes,
Breaking in clouds of golden spray,
It heralds the day
With greens and golds:
It scatters colour, through it flows
The burning sunset like a rose.

[‘Forgotten Places’. p. 24-27]

 
In ‘The Secret World’ the poet dismantles his body, saying ‘take these eyes. I yet shall see: / let them blossom silently.’ And then turns to his ears – ‘take these ears, let them bring / flowers for the butterfly: / I still shall hear the wild bird sing….’ There is a real wealth of beauty in these wonderful verse and Mackenzie seems to speak to me directly, I find, like no other poet I have come across for some time, there is a personal affiliation which resonates within –

 
‘I remember the sliding lawn – the scent of heavy foliage,
The lilac, the tall trees at the end,
And the moonlight
Twisting itself into wisps,
And pushing through the leaves,
Like fine white feathers of grass.’ (Eyes. III)

In the poem ‘Self’ the poet climbs ‘Time’s futile stair’ and dreads the emptiness of the last step:

 
SELF

I

Don’t look round! No need yet to look round:
There are hoarse voices muttering in my ear –
And clumsily I scale the useless ground,
With dread of words I am afraid to hear.

Knowing there’s nothing, nothing I can hold.
Nothing I’ve written or preserved, or spoken,
When all man’s love seems perishable gold,
And the one thing I trusted in is broken.

And so I go, climbing Time’s futile stair,
Shutting my aching eyes, lest I should learn;
Dreading the emptiness that will find me, where
On the last step I make, I too must turn.

II

Look at the shape you’ve made;
The uncertain limning knife.
And face it unafraid,
A mockery of life.

Do you bring this, elate
For praise of memory?
Fool! you only imitate
Other men’s tapestry.

Some day your farce will stop.
You’ll be no more, you alone:
And all you mean to do will drop –
O self, wake up, get something that’s your own.

[‘Forgotten Places’. p. 32-33]

In the poem ‘The Room’ written at Sandwich in 1918, Mackenzie recalls his time of thought in a room ‘closed by clean whitewashed walls’ by the light of day and later where ‘the dark shadows crept, / Leaving it slowly colourless, submissive to the night.’ His thoughts ‘stretch out beyond it and away, / Reaching to something memory cannot find’ –

‘O you who enter here, when I have gone,
You will not know the hidden lips that cry
To you “safety,” as the night comes down.
You will not understand the fear
In the grey waste of grass and sands
That lie
Past the shutters closed against the wind,
(Ceremoniously closed, by your vain, foreign hands)…
And you will take the security of those walls,
Not thinking of the compact strength in them.
And when moon unfolds between the curtains
And the shadows creep; there will be beauty, then, that calls.
You will not hear.’

[‘Forgotten Places’. The Room. IV. p. 37]

He found that the ‘ugliness of the material life distresses him, but it never overwhelms’ (Introduction. p. 14) and Waugh concludes his touching tribute, saying that ‘the laughter and the love of Ian Mackenzie were of eternal stuff. They were born of the sunlight, and return with it again. For they are “memory when we die.”’ (Introduction. p. 15)

 
MEMORIES

The scented winds blow down the night,
And darkness creeps to me;
Suddenly the stars shed light
On some unremembered sea.

Sometimes I can grasp again
Something I have known;
A thought of love, a stab of pain
Float like shadows through the brain,
And quickly they are gone.

So I can remember
Lives I must have lived before:
A sudden gleam of golden hair,
Kissed passionately I know not where;
For memory shuts his shadowy door.

[‘Forgotten Places’. p. 59]

 
While he was a cadet at Sandhurst he had a severe illness and was left with slight heart trouble and not passed for service abroad and he became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, Highland Light Infantry and spent the war years in Scotland at the Regimental Malleny Camp, Currie, Midlothian, Scotland. Ian Mackenzie contracted pneumonia (Spanish Flu) and was sent to hospital in Cambridge; he was told that the war was over on Armistice Day, 11th November and during the night ‘his brave heart fought its last fight, and failed him…’ (p. 13) he died later on Tuesday 12th November 1918, aged 20 years old. His parents Boyce and Susannah were living at 30 Court Road, Tunbridge Wells at the time of Ian’s death and Ian is buried in Cambridge City Cemetery, c.3391.

 
THE HOUR

Oh, one glad hour, flung from the trembling skies –
Life of our lives – yet, it cannot remain;
But as some gorgeous flower must fall and wane,
Thus in one night all men’s love breaks and dies,
And the dead years still echo with their cries.
Time cannot render back its joys again.
Our tears and griefs were borne, that out of pain
We might feel love like this burn in our eyes.

We have known all. Strong let us go as one,
E’er yet the glory round our souls has fled.
Darkness, while yet the brightness of desire
Is splendid as a coronal of fire,
To light the sullen faces of the dead.
Proud let us go, down the dark road alone.

[‘Forgotten Places’. p. 54]

Ian’s brother Frederick Boyce Mackenzie died just a few short months before Ian – Frederick Boyce Mackenzie was born on 3rd May 1893 and he also attended St Lawrence College, Ramsgate; he was School Captain in the cricket team 1910-11 and cricket XI 1909-10-11. He became a Captain in the 71st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery and served almost three years at the Front, mostly the Ypres Salient. He married Mildred Snell (born 2nd December 1895, Kenley, Surrey; dying 25th August 1984, Mill Valley, California) on 6th February 1917 in Stonegate, Sussex and in 1918 Frederick was sent back to England and based in Winchester. In early July of that year he visited the New Forest and met some friends for lunch and because it was such a lovely day Frederick decided to spend the night in the Forest. He met a local farmer in the Forest and they got talking and the farmer offered Frederick his hay loft to sleep in. Early the next morning the farmer was awoken by cries of ‘Fire!’ as the hay loft was ablaze. A pony was rescued from the barn but Captain Frederick Mackenzie burnt to death on 4th July 1918. He was twenty-five years old. The verdict was ‘accidental death’ and there is a memorial in Fordingbridge Cemetery, Hampshire. There were no children from the marriage and Mildred re-married in Paris on 16th June the following year, to an American named Whitney Braymer Wright.

Ian’s father, Boyce John Mackenzie died on 15th June 1921 in Tunbridge Wells, aged 77 and his mother, Susanna Isabella Townsend Mackenzie died on 14th March 1949 aged 83 in Fulmer Grange, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire.

 

TO I. H. T. M.

Like fire I saw thee
Smiling, running, leaping, glancing and consuming;
Like fire thine ardent body moving;
Scorching and scouring the mind’s waste places
Like fire: like fire extinguished.

Now in my hands
Holding thy book, these ashes of thee;
Still fire I know thee
Gloriously somewhere burning,
Who wast so keen, more keenly;
Who wast so pure, more purely;
Beyond my vision,
Somewhere before God’s face,
Eternal.

[Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff. (3) October, 1919, from his dedication in ‘The Song of Roland’. 1919. The author also dedicated the volume to two other literary friends who died in the war during 1918: Philip Gillespie Bainbrigge who was killed in September (4), the poet Wilfred Owen who was killed on the 4th November, a week before the Armistice and Ian of course a short time after in November]

 

 
NOTES:

1. Ian’s Uncle Mackay Donald Scobie Mackenzie, born 1849 is recorded in the 1901 census as living in Bristol, Gloucestershire, a 54 year old Bank Manager with his wife Florence M Mackenzie, aged 40 from South Shields, Durham, and their three children: Marjorie Scobie Mackenzie, aged 13, born in 1888 in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland; Boyce Mackay Scobie Mackenzie, aged 12, born in 1889 in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland and Barbara Scobie Mackenzie, aged 3, born in 1898 in Clifton, Gloucestershire. Mackay Donald Scobie Mackenzie married Florence Margaret Stevenson (born 1861 in South Shields, Durham) in 1886 in Lanchester, Durham. In the 1911 census Mackay Donald Scobie Mackenzie is a 64 year old widower and retired Bank Manager living in Bexhill, Sussex. His son Boyce is a 22 year old Undergraduate.

2. Frederick Beresford Gahan (1821-6th July 1904) of the 57th Regiment [son of Major Beresford Gahan, 5th Dragoon Guards and second wife Henrietta Ann Townsend] and Katherine Jane Townsend (born 20th December 1834 in India, dying in 1920) were married on 31st October 1860 at Kilgariff, County Cork; Frederick Beresford Gahan was a surveyor and they had the following children: a) Frederick Beresford Townsend Gahan, born 1861, died1862. b) Edward Hume Townsend Gahan, born 1864, died 1875. c) Susana Isabella Townsend Gahan, born 28th September 1866 in Donegal, died 14th March1949. d) Frederick George Townsend Gahan, born 7th December 1866, died 31st August 1955Frederick worked as a civil engineer for the Congested Districts Board; the Land Commission and the Electricity Supply Board. He married Winifred Mary Waters and had three sons and two daughters all born in County Donegal except for Frederick Dermot Gahan. e) Beresford Horatio Townsend Gahan, born 9th April 1868 in Donegal, he took Holy Orders, married and had two children. f) Horace Stirling Gahan, born 3rd December 1870, died 3rd February 1958, aged 88, he also took Holy Orders and became Chaplain of Christ Church in Brussels from 1914-22 [he visited Edith Cavell in the prison of St Giles on 11th October 1915 and later administered the Last Rites to her on the day before she was shot by firing squad]. Horace married and had two children: John and Susan. g) Reginald Hume Townsend Gahan, born 27th July 1879, Reginald was a Land Agent who married and emigrated to Canada. He had no children. h) Walter Henry Townsend Gahan, born 3rd January 1881, died 5th June 1963. Walter was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and he took Holy Orders; he married Florence Rose (died 6th March 1963) and had no children.

3. Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff (25th September 1889-28th February 1930). A Scottish writer mostly known for his translation of Proust. He was educated at Winchester College and became a friend of Christopher Sclater Millard (1872-1927) the enthusiast and bibliographer of Oscar Wilde. Scott Moncrieff attained a Law Degree and an English Literature Degree from Edinburgh University and it was during this time that he met and befriended the undergraduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, Philip Gillespie Bainbrigge. Scott Moncrieff attained a commission in August 1914 to the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, 2nd Battalion and served at the Western Front from 1914-17. In January 1918 Scott Moncrieff attended the wedding of the poet Robert Graves and met the war poet Wilfred Owen with whom he fell in love.

4. Philip Gillespie Bainbrigge, born 19th September 1890 in Edinburgh, the son of the Reverend Philip Thomas Bainbrigge (1848-1919) and Helen Jane Bainbrigge nee Gillespie (1866-1904). Philip attended Rottingdean Prep School in 1902 and won a King's Scholarship to Eton College in 1903 where he excelled in Greek and Latin. He won a Scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1909 but decided to enter Trinity College, Cambridge on 1st October of that year where he studied Classics and won a First in that subject. He won the Bell Scholarship Award in 1910 and attained his BA in 1912 and MA in 1916. In 1913 he became a Classics Master at Shrewsbury School before enlisting in the Army in 1917 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers, attached to the Welsh Regiment. He was killed in action on 18th September 1918 at the Battle of Epehy the day before his 28th birthday. He is buried in Five Points Cemetery, Lechelle, France. Grave B.24. He is best known in the literary world as the author of a privately printed verse play titled 'Achilles in Scyros: A Classical Comedy' (1927). For more information on Philip Gillespie Bainbrigge see Jennifer Ingleheart's excellent 'Masculine Plural.' Oxford University Press. 2018.